Monday, 23 April 2018

It's spring apparently...

After a great week in the Alps I have hung up my ski's and axes! People are still skiing some slopes in Scotland with a fair bit of hiking but I'm ready for a season and activity change!

Busy carpark..

So it was time to have a weekend away and look for some rock in the far NW of Scotland. With a good forecast for Saturday we headed to Sheigra North of Scourie in bluey the van..

starting one of the HVSs
What a great spot as you drive towards the macair and beach and park on the grass 50 m from the sea. I short walk takes you to the impressive cliffs and we climbed at Geo 2 on amazingly rough and textured gneiss... hmm tasty.

Loz on the hardest route of the day - Shark Crack Hard Severe!
We did a couple of VS's to warm up before climbing an amazing steep but juggy HVS and E1 (Juglust and Juggernaut)- wow what amazing climbs. After these 4 routes at 3pm we went back to the van for lunch and cups of tea.

abseil into this route..
Round 2 saw us abseiling in on the far side of the cave and climbing more great routes including Dark Angel, a brilliant E1 (I did the HVS finish though!), Fingers another great steep E1, and the hardest route of the day..... Shark Crack which is graded HS 4b, but harder than all of the E1s we climbed today!

sea views from camp
We finished climbing around 8pm and retired to the van for beers, food, sea views and whisky. A fantastic day out.

I'm not scared.... 
We were hoping that Sunday didn't deliver the rain that it forecast, but it did! But even though we were a little disappointed at no more climbing I think that Saturday was so good that really it didn't matter. Can't wait to return here and try some of the E1s and E2s on the main headwall (me thinks from the sofa) ;-).

Brekky on Sunday (+ rain)

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Arctic Blast

The very cold wind came from the East, so initially I was thinking that to be topical we could blame Russia, but that accusation could land me in all sorts of trouble so I think it's safer to just say it was cold and windy and not specify the source!

Nice starting track
We headed again to the far North of Sutherland for Ben Klibreck, in fact this was the second attempt of this hill. The first saw a retreat due to poor weather (blizzards), lack of appropriate equipment (no ice axe!) and a lack of motivation on my part (which is unusual!)!

Ben Loyal further North

So here we were again! Having found a better route from the internet (the suggestion in the old munro book is shorter but heinous) we parked up and set off in the cold sunshine. MWIS had suggested that the windchill today would be -17, and I would agree with them on this. It was the second coldest day I have been on the hill this winter.


On top - cold
The walk was pleasant, making good progress, initially up a quad bike track from the South. When we quickly got to the snow line the snow conditions underfoot were quite unusual. It was like a layer of hard neve with a lot of ice also built into it in an amazing lattice type pattern. 

I guess it was easier than soft snow but the hard ground and toil of crampons for hours was a little wearing (on the ankles)! 

descending the icy slopes

Serious Rime!
Once on the ridge, or higher ground it was quite a traverse to the summit cone, and passing the lowest col was memorable with the even higher wind funnelling through it. The top section of Klibeck is reasonably steep and Abi was a little unhappy cramponing up this in case of a slip (which is understandable). 

Looking back to the summit..doesn't look too far
Great views from the top as long as you sat down, or severely braced yourself against the wind! Nice view of Ben Loyal, and Ben Hope to the North/NNW.

Ok, wheres the car!?
Coming down wasn't too bad, but by the time we hit the car I was goosed! Its only a 9 mile walk but I felt like I'd run a marathon. Great to keep exploring the Highlands, I am quite drawn to this desolate Northern section more and more...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Half Days Cragging

The forscast for Sunday was great, but quite warm! So the options were limited to snowy munro's or go for the highest crag we could think of with easy quick access (in case it had melted!)!

Creagan Cha-no, the small crag on Cairngorm over looking Strath Nethy seemed to be our best and perhaps only bet, and besides I'd always wondered what it was like.

Gentle walk in
I was a little worried that it might be busy... as we parked up there were lots of climbers about and a big team from the RAF mountain rescue packing bags and ropes.. Boy was it warm on the 1 hour walk up to the crag at just over 1000m.

Where's this crag
We didn't need to worry the RAF disappeared somewhere else and it wasn't too busy at the crag, in fact I bumped into a couple of climbers from Aberdeen I'd met on Penguin Gully a couple of weeks ago.

Chimney Rib
When we dropped off the rim down to the climbs it felt like an oven with the sun reflecting off the snow. Most of the crag was perfect dry rock that would of been great to climb if we'd had our rock boots.

Huw following up
But we'd come for the winter routes and by looking in the deeper and shaded spots we found 2 great routes to climb, Chimney Rib and Anvil Gully, both great fun and in good condition.

Huw avoiding the cornice 
We both felt happy after the 2 routes, the other teams seemed to be heading home after one route with the Mediterranean conditions so we headed down to Aviemore as Huw was getting twitchy because the 6 Nations was due on.

Anvil Gully
So a perfect day really, nice easy walk, 2 fun climbs, before a big lunch in Aviemore and the Rugby! I must meet up with Huw more often now he's hit middle age!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

An Teallach

Exciting weekend as Huw was visiting, well in truth he was already up here working but had a free weekend to catch up - brilliant!

I've not seen Huw for a few years, and the last time that we winter climbed together there was a slight avalanche incident and broken ankle.... but hey who hasn't had these days out...

So we hoped to winter climb and lots of potential plans were banded around but in the end due to various boring reasons, including weather we were restricted on Saturday and opted to just go up Hayfork Gully on An Teallach - an easy day!

The coire looking great but freshly plastered maybe..
Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan. Huw had been in this area all week instructing, and a couple of days before one of the other groups had been up it and reported great conditions, but as we entered the Coire (which is very impressive) it quickly occurred to both of us that we may have to change the plan!

The wind had shifted a lot of the snow around drastically and filled all of the gully's (and most of the faces) with fresh snow which was starting to form windslab. We both kidded ourselves that maybe things would be fine, but as soon as we got near the gully safely viewing it from a rock band we both knew without speaking - it was a no go!

plans changed
We found a safer, scoured way up and took in one of the summits as the weather deteriorated rapidly as forecast with very strong wind, low cloud and some snow. We got a view of the classic An Teallach ridge just before all upper mountain views were suspended for the day!

Finding a safer route up (wishing I'd ditched the pole sooner!)
Because of the weather we headed down, picking a ridge that Huw hadn't been on before. It was great with sheer edges, rocks, snow slopes all appearing through the murk as the visibility came and went (mainly went).

As we dropped height the views came back, but also the mildness was very evident as our crampons were balling up every other step, definitely not a day for winter climbing (well not here anyway).

Wheres the way down!
What was great about the day (as well as being out and hanging with Huw) was talking about the snow, looking at conditions, decision making, monitoring the quickly building windslab and observing how potentially dangerous snow conditions were building on 3 aspects. A really interesting day.

Huw back in the views

Monday, 5 March 2018

l'éléphant sur les allumettes

Well.... 'The storms roll in, and the storms roll out, be merry my friend, be merry...'.

I had no real plans this weekend, but the mountain weather forecast looked pants but there was plenty of snow around and I've always wanted to try xc skiing so headed to Glenmore forest on Saturday, got some planks from the Pine Marten and hit the forest.

Day 1
Such fun immediately! I just loved zooming (well maybe crawling) around the forest following the 'groomed' (term used very loosely here!) xc track around the Loch Morlich area. I did however feel like an elephant on match sticks...

coffee break
I enjoyed it so much that I extended the hire for 2 days and went back on Sunday too. On Sunday the mountain was closed (snow gates shut) so I had to park up short of the tracks and just headed into the forest exploring the tracks on both sides of the road. Brilliant.

Day 2
I also bumped into Jen and Graham too and did an extra loop with them. A great weekend, but the problem is now I need to add more outdoor gear to the list!

Fat biker enjoying the snow

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Penguin gully on Beinn Dearg

So after Beinn Eighe we decided to go for another big day! I'd convinced myself that this day could be achieved in about 8 hours because I made two fatal miscalculations. Firstly I believed Loz when he said 'yeah sure, its only about 2 hours to walk in to Beinn Dearg' from Ullapool way. And secondly I didn't acknowledge (look - oops) at the description for Penguin gully and just presumed that it was around 200m long and not 350m - haha.

The walk in.. (Shaws pic)

Now wheres Penguin Gully..
Anyway another early start saw us leaving the car at 7.30am, and what a long walk it was into an icy head wind for hour, after hour, after hour (exaggerating for effect). I think it took around 4 hours but it was a beautiful walk and I'd never been up into this mountain group from this aspect before.

Santuary! Gearing up

Loz heading up to the obvious gully
Luckily near the route start there was a giant boulder to shelter behind and gear up. We then spotted  a team of 3 ahead of us on the climb.

Loz setting off

Judith following Shaw (his pic)
The gully was in good and easy condition with great solid neve and ice for protection and belays where required. We joined the queue and pitched most of it even though it would have been fine to solo....

The 3 guys we overtook on top
After a couple of hundred meters even though we were enjoying ourselves I think we were ready to finish as we were being held up by the slow team ahead so Loz and I just stopped pitching it and moved together for the last 100-150m putting in some protection between us on the 50m rope.

Heading down
This saw us top out at about 4pm I think and we carried on the short way to the top of the munro to take in the amazing views. The wind had dropped by now and it felt great being in such an amazing place for the second day running.

Loz looking back across to Penguin gully
Shaw and Judith topped out a little later and we met them again on the flatter section near the start of the route as we were heading into the dusk.

And again.. great view of Penguin
What followed was a long walk out and I think its fair to say that we all found it tough. I was hallucinating a little on the walk out thinking I could see sheep everywhere (white rocks) and I was 100% convinced that they were following me in a line, but obviously everytime I turned around no sheep just the glow of Shaw and Judith's head torches a short distance behind.

Shaw's pic of Judith starting the walk out
We were meant to be all having a dinner party after this, but we didn't get back to Contin until 9.30pm after an amazing, but very tiring 13.5 hr hill day....

Losing the light now
Food, a little wine and whisky did get consumed, but I certainly didn't have much energy in me for conversation as I was nearly asleep at the dinner table.

The day after I had a lie in and did nothing but smile!